Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ma Kuo-han

MA Kuo-han 馬國翰 (T. 詞溪, H. 竹吾), 1794–1857, scholar, was a native of Li-ch'êng, Shantung. He grew up in Shansi where his father, Ma Ming-chin 馬名錦 (T. 文江), held the post of magistrate successively in several districts. In 1809 Ma Ming-chin died in office at Taiyuan, Shansi, and in the following year Ma Kuo-han returned to his native place via Peking. Thereafter he made a poor living for about twenty years, lodging in the homes of well-to-do families. Graduated as chin-shih in 1832, he served as magistrate in Shensi in the districts of Lo-ch'uan (1834–36), Shih-ch'üan (1836–37), and Chingyang (1837–38). In 1838 he returned home on account of illness. After remaining at his native place for six years, he was appointed (1844) department magistrate of Lung-chou, Shensi, a position he held until the summer of 1852. The remainder of his life he lived in his native village, devoting himself to writing.

During the latter half of his life Ma Kuo-han was interested in the collecting of books, and his studio, named Yü-han shan-fang 玉函山房, eventually held some 57,500 chüan. On the basis of this rich private collection he undertook the compilation of a series of "lost books restored in fragments" (輯佚書 chi-i-shu), that is, ancient works which had long been lost but which could be partially recovered through quotations preserved in contemporary or subsequent writings. This movement of "salvaging what has been sunk" (鉤沈 kou-ch'ên) constituted an important phase of the intellectual renaissance of the age. Ma Kuo-han's work was probably the most extensive undertaking of this nature carried out by an individual scholar. His Yü-han shan-fang chi-i-shu contains more than 580 books "restored in fragments." He began collecting early in 1815, and by 1853, a year after his retirement, the parts of the collectanea dealing with classics and philosophy were printed. After his death the printing-blocks and manuscripts were preserved in the home of a son-in-law, surnamed Li, at Chang-ch'iu, Shantung. A few years later two brothers of this family, Li Pao-ying 李寶嬰 (T. 稚玉) and Li Pao-ch'ih 李寶赤 (T. 保如), reprinted the Yü-han shan-fang chi-i-shu from the original blocks. Soon after 1870, by direction of Ting Pao-chên [q. v.], governor of Shantung, and of Wên-pin 文彬 (T. 質夫, 1825–1880), financial commissioner of Shantung, the collectanea was supplemented by several scholars, among them K'uang Yüan 匡源 (T. 鶴泉, chin-shih of 1840), then head of the Li-üan 濼源 Academy, Tsinan, and was published with a preface by the latter, dated 1874. A small edition of it appeared in Hunan in 1883. About this time Ch'ên Chin 陳錦 (T. 畫卿, b. 1821), intendant of the Chi-Wu-Tai Circuit in Shantung, collated the editions preserved by the Li family and, with the aid of the brothers, Li Yüan-chin 李元璡 (T. 符卿) and Li Yüan-jui 李元瑞 (T. 琢之), brought out an improved edition, Ch'ên's preface being dated 1884. Another work by Ma Kuo-han, entitled 目耕帖 Mu-kêng t'ieh, 32 chüan, a collection of texts of various classics, was also printed in this edition. In 1889 the Li brothers, aided by Chiang Shih-hsing 蔣式惺 (T. 性甫, a chin-shih of 1892), printed eleven other manuscripts of Ma as a continuation of the Yü-han shan-fang chi-i-shu, at the same time supplementing the Mu-kêng t'ieh by 2 chüan.

Ma Kuo-han possessed literary talent, especially in the field of poetry. In his native place he was a member of the literary club named Ou-shê 鷗社, an organization of various local poets. His literary collection, containing his prose works in 4 chüan and his verse in 4 chüan, was published with a preface by himself dated 1833, under the title Yü-han shan-fang shih-wên chi (詩文集). This collection was enlarged, and when published under the same title after his death contained 8 chüan of verse (1884) and 10 chüan of prose (1889). Ma Kuo-han compiled a catalogue of various kinds of coins prior to the Ming period, entitled 紅藕花軒泉品 Hung-ou hua hsüan ch'üan-p'in, 8 chüan, which was reprinted in 1887. He was also the author of several other works of which the manuscripts or the printing-blocks were preserved in the Li family. At the request of the Li brothers Chiang Shih-hsing edited these manuscripts, under the title 馬竹吾先生全集 Ma Chu-wu hsien-shêng ch'üan-chi. This collection, however, was not published.


[Wang Chung-min, "Two Ch'ing Editors of Lost Books" (Chinese text) in 輔仁學誌 Fu-jên hsüeh-chih, vol. III, no. 1 (1932); Li-ch'êng hsien-chih (1926), chüan 41; Hsü (續) Shensi t'ung-chih kao (稿) (1934), list of officials.]

Hiromu Momose